Nadal beats Djokovic to meet Federer in Hamburg final

May 18th, 2008 - 1:10 pm ICT by admin  

Hamburg, May 18 (DPA) Rafael Nadal retained his second place in the men’s tennis rankings Saturday when he outlasted challenger Novak Djokovic 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 in the Hamburg Masters semi-finals. The third-ranked Serb Djokovic blew a 3-0 lead in the first set and wasted eight break points in the third of a high-class match which lasted three hours, three minutes under the closed centre court roof on a rainy afternoon.

“It was an amazing match. I played one of my best matches,” said Nadal after the match.

Djokovic said: “It was great to be part of a fantastic match. It was one of the best, maybe the best I have played on clay.”

In the final, the Spaniard will again face World Number one Roger Federer of Switzerland, who crushed unseeded Italian Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-1 in the other semi-final.

Federer beat Nadal in the 2007 decider for a fourth Hamburg crown, his only win on clay over his long-time rival who leads their series 9-6.

Nadal beat Federer for the Monte Carlo Masters three weeks ago and takes a stunning 107-2 record on clay since April 2005 into Sunday’s final as he aims to complete his clay Masters title collection.

“I am playing in Roger’s home. But I have the best motivation because its the only Masters on clay I haven’t won,” said Nadal.

Nadal’s world ranking came under threat from Djokovic as the Serb won the Australian Open, Indian Wells, and the Rome Masters last Sunday.

Djokovic started in strong fashion as he raced off to a 3-0 lead and held two break points for 4-0. Nadal, however, finally got into the game, tied at 3-3 and took the set in the 12th game after failing to serve it out for the first time at 5-4.

Djokovic regrouped and levelled the sets with four unanswered games after saving a break point at 2-2.

But Nadal countered with a break for 1-0 in the final set, and Djokovic’s frustration grew when he wasted two break points in the second and fourth game. Nadal broke again for 5-2 and then won on his fifth match point, after saving another four break points, when Djokovic’s drop shot ended in the net.

Nadal raised his arms into the air in delight when it was all over and both players embraced at the net. Nadal got his seventh win in 10 meetings with Djokovic and has won all four on clay.

While both players had 31 winners, Nadal kept his unforced errors to 23 while Djokovic had 43. Djokovic’s next chance to get second place comes at the French Open, which start next week Sunday.

“The first break in the third set was important and the two 15-40s I saved,” said Nadal. But he added Djokovic played “unbelievable” in the first three games of the match had has “very good chances to be the number one” in the future.

Djokovic returned the compliments: “He used his opportunities very wisely. He is probably the best defensive player in the history of the sport.

“I had so many opportunities. I was a bit unlucky in the first and third set. I played all the right shots at the right time but luck played a big role.”

Federer took 1:18 hours to beat Seppi and could have even wrapped up matters sooner had he not converted just one of eight break points in the first set. The Swiss fired 26 winners to Seppi’s 18.

“It was a long first set. I created many opportunities. I think I wore him out and set it up for the second set,” said Federer.

“It is good to be in the Hamburg final again, it is good for the confidence ahead of the French Open,” Federer said.

Another Hamburg win will be sweet for Federer as he has only won the small tournament of Estoril in the buildup to the French Open, the only Grand Slam he hasn’t won.

“Maybe I am a touch better than last year. I feel a bit more ready for Paris,” he said.

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